“Uh-one and uh-two … ”
Those words spoken in a thick German accent along with a wave of his baton, Lawrence Welk would queue the band, his “champagne music makers,” for another song.
Mark Tucker would like to follow Welk’s lead. He’s got the one, winning the first Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open, and will wave his rods over Table Rock Lake in search of his two.
“I would love to win,” he said. “If it was on any other lake in this area, I might be favored to win. This lake can be brutal. I’ve never come here and really caught them consistent every day of the tournament. I’ve always had an off day.”
Any angler hoping to make champagne flow has their work cut out for them in the weather-delayed third Central Open, running Thursday through Saturday out of Branson, Mo. With tournament headquarters at the Welk Resorts Branson, the anglers are performing just outside “The Live Music Show Capital of the World,” but probably won’t have much time to take in the likes of Shoji Tabuchi.
Tucker, who lives in St. Louis about 3 hours from Branson, wants his strings to sing so he could headline Saturday’s final weigh-in at the Bass Pro Shops. In April, the site in Branson along Lake Taneycomo was flooded, and dangerous navigation on Table Rock forced the move from April 28-30 to this week.
While he was a regular on the lake in April preparing, he just visited the 43,000-acre impoundment again last week before heading to Oklahoma’s Grand Lake over the weekend, where he took third in a tournament and won $11,000. He’s not counting on the same at Table Rock, where he said conditions are difficult.
“I was here all last week, and it was tough, tough, tough fishing,” Tucker said. “Table Rock is some of the toughest fishing anywhere in this part of the world. Right now, it’s a grind. You just have to go, go, go to catch one here and one there.”
Tucker said an unseasonably dry, hot summer stressed out the fish. There’s been no water moving, and he hopes the cool front with rain Monday night will turn things around.
“Until the water temp gets in the lower 60s, that’s when it will start swinging around,” he said. “That could go either way, it could turn them on or just flat turn them off. You have to fish with an open mind and stay positive.”
Tucker, who had fished the Elite Series for 10 years before pulling up stakes last year, has had some success on Table Rock, but not so much in his last B.A.S.S. visit. In The Rock Pro in 2006, Tucker finished 26th behind winner Todd Faircloth, who had 50-9 in the September event. Tucker fished well enough in the season-ender to qualify for the Classic.
The event was a month earlier and Tucker said the water was much clearer, before the turnover and when bass were feeding before the transition period. He said Faircloth caught most his fish drop shotting.
“It could be won like that again, but the fishing doesn’t seem to be that way right now. More fish are being caught on spoons and stuff like that,” Tucker said. “It’s a tough lake to fish. One day you can catch them in one spot and the next day you go back and there’s no fish.”
Some anglers will undoubtedly bring in decent sacks, and bags in the low teens should fare well. Local Robbie Dobson won the EverStart event there last week with 37 pounds over three days.
Tucker, whose first Bassmaster event was a third here in 1996, says he has some leeway already having secured the Classic berth, his eighth.
“I’m looking forward to going to the Classic and getting down to the Red River in November to prefish,” he said. “I’ve been there several times so I kind of know how you got to go about fishing.”
Winning the Open made his year, but he went back working 40 hours a week at his concrete job, and took off to fish these events.
“I haven’t even had time to work on fishing tackle,” he said. “It’s different now. For me, taking off two weeks, it was a God-sent deal. I made enough money to get through the winter.”